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Richmond photographer shows experiences of housing insecurity

Photographer Julia Rendleman takes picture of woman grabbing trash bags filled with supplies out from a van
Screenshot of Capturing the Moment: Democracy, a series featuring photographer Julia Rendleman.

Take a diverse group of talented photographers and ask them to create their own to explore the theme of democracy in America. The result? Capturing The Moment: Democracy, a series following four talented photographers on assignment as they seek to capture unique images representative of democracy.

For freelance photographer Julia Rendleman, American democracy is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. She captured the lives of those living in the hotels and motels along the Jeff Davis Highway, which has become long-term housing for people facing housing insecurity.

“...so I think if your belly’s not full, and you don't have a place to sleep at night, like, how far are you really going to get with those American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Really, you're not going to be able to focus on those until your basic human needs are met.”

Her work has been used to advocate for affordable housing reform and for harm reduction approaches to substance abuse and rehabilitation. Rendelman’s goal is to show people with dignity and respect, approaching her work with great empathy. Before she even picks up her camera, she builds a relationship with her subjects and learns about their situation.

It may be cliche, but to her, the right picture can be worth a thousand words by bringing people into a situation they may not know about nor have experienced.

“…so maybe if you've never even ever seen people living day-to-day in a hotel room, because there are no other options for them, you know, maybe if you see it, then you can understand it more and realize the need for affordable housing.”

Learn more about how Rendleman uses photography to convey the different experiences of people facing housing insecurity with Capturing the Moment: Democracy.

Watch Capturing the Moment Thursday, January 6 on VPM PBS or on PBS.org.